H.B.C.U.s Have a Spirit All Their Own. Pop Culture Is Paying Attention.

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Pop Culture icon beyonce at a concert

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The collective moment when I first saw a three-dimensional reflection of my own college experience in popular culture happened not once but twice: on the television series “A Different World,” which premiered in 1987, and in Spike Lee’s film “School Daze,” which debuted in 1988. Together, they presented a meditation on the many layers and complexities of Black campus life that I had not seen before.

The magic for me wasn’t in particular characters as much as it was in the plot lines and the elements of culture imported from H.B.C.U.s, or historically Black colleges and universities. These recognizable moments from my own experience — campuses filled with students who celebrated the diversity of Black culture; the Greek steppers whose chants and thunderous stomps filled the gym; the homecomings that felt more like a family reunion — could have been plucked from any of the more than 100 H.B.C.U. campuses across the country, including my alma mater, Florida A&M University (FAMU).

When they appeared more than 30 years ago, “A Different World” and “School Daze” harnessed the power of familiarity and affirmation — and marked one of the first big moments of visibility for H.B.C.U.s in mainstream culture.

Finally, I thought, a defining chapter in the lives of so many Black Americans was being told in a big, big way. Finally, our H.B.C.U. history and inheritance, our legacy and sense of belonging, were being mined for storytelling.

Finally, we saw ourselves.

Over the decades, what began as sporadic nods to Black campus experiences has grown into more: portrayals that are both authentic and that challenge stereotypes about H.B.C.U. college life. While there is room for more — and more varied — narratives, in 2022 it is no longer an anomaly to see a television show set at an H.B.C.U., or an H.B.C.U. marching band featured in a music video or commercial, or a real-life celebrity or athlete wearing H.B.C.U.-branded apparel.

Earlier this year, the CW network released “March,” an eight-episode docuseries about the marching band at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. The CW’s new show “All American: Homecoming,” a spinoff of the popular “All American,” takes place at the fictional Bringston College in Atlanta, which is home to several real-life H.B.C.U.s.

“This just felt like an organic opportunity where I can extend what we’re doing on ‘All American’ and explore a whole new different world of Blackness at an older, broader level,” Nkechi Okoro Carroll, the showrunner for “All American: Homecoming,” said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, adding, “It’s time that people understand we’re worthy of being the ‘A’ story, the H.B.C.U. experience is worthy of being the ‘A’ story.”

In the fashion world, Ralph Lauren used the vintage finery worn by students at Morehouse and Spelman Colleges between the 1920s and the 1950s as inspiration for his new capsule clothing collection, developed in collaboration with the schools and released in March.

And in one of the biggest nods by one of the biggest stars, Beyoncé incorporated the high-stepping electricity of an H.B.C.U. marching band and the iconography of Black Greek life into her historic headlining performance at Coachella in 2018, which came to be nicknamed Beychella. (The performance was documented in “Homecoming,” a behind-the-scenes concert film on Netflix.) The unmistakable sound (her band included performers who had marched in H.B.C.U. bands), the precision choreography, the call-and-response chants, the unwavering spirit — the performance was every bit a visible and visceral celebration of deeply rooted H.B.C.U. traditions.

“This feels like a very new and different moment around the acceptance and visibility and pop-cultural representation of H.B.C.U.s,” said Mark Anthony Neal, the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African and African American studies at Duke University.

Will Packer, a top filmmaker and a graduate of FAMU, has both witnessed and contributed to the rise in visibility of H.B.C.U.s. He also remembered the one-two punch of “A Different World” and “School Daze” as his own meaningful introduction to seeing H.B.C.U. life onscreen.

“That was the first time I saw those images and was able to really process them in a way that said, Oh, this is a real place,” said Mr. Packer, whose producing credits include “Ride Along” and “Straight Outta Compton.” Seeing those early depictions, he said, was “not just something fresh out of Hollywood but someplace I can have access to.”

Click here to read the full article in The New York Times.

Firsts of Firsts: Making Black History – Black History Firsts

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Maia Chaka Becomes the First Black Woman to Officiate the NFL 

This past season, Maia Chaka made history when she became the first Black woman to officiate an NFL game. Chaka, who has been a part of the NFL Officiating Development Program since 2014, has formally been added to the NFL officiating roster in an accomplishment that Chaka claims not only for herself but for her community. Her first game was on September 12, between the New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers. “But this moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment,” Chaka stated to the press, “It is an accomplishment for all women, my community and my culture.”

Source: NPR

 

Emma Grede is the First Black Woman Investor on Shark Tank

Emma Grede wearing a long black dress with her left leg showing skin peeking out
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 23: Emma Grede attends the Good American 3rd Anniversary Dinner Party at Casa Tua on October 23, 2019 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Good American)

CEO of Khloe Kardashian’s Good American and Co-founder to Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS, Emma Grede has become the first black woman to join the cast of Shark Tank as one of the show’s “sharks.” She will be the 13th season’s guest shark alongside show regulars Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Barbara Corcoran, Kevin O’Leary, Robert Herjavic, Daymond John and additional guest shark, Kevin Hart. Of her appearance, Grede simply stated on Instagram, “I’m beyond thrilled to be a guest shark on Season 13 of Shark Tank!”

Source: The Grio

Michaela Coel weaking a elegant
Photo Credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images

Michaela Coel Becomes the First Black Woman to Win an Emmy for Writing in a Limited Series

Writer Michaela Coel made history during the 2021 Emmys when she became the first Black Woman to win an Emmy for writing in a Limited Series. Coel’s victory came from her work on the series, I May Destroy You, which she wrote, directed and produced based off of her experiences as a sexual assault survivor. Coel kept her acceptance speech sweet and concise with what she wanted to say: “Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that is uncomfortable…Do not be afraid to disappear — from it, from us — for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence…I dedicate this story to every single survivor of sexual assault.”

Source: ET and The Atlantic

Cast of The Black Lady show standing with their awards for the show
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 11: Daysha Broadway, Stephanie Filo and Jessica Hernandez pose with the award for Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Programming for “A Black Lady Sketch Show” at Microsoft Theater on September 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

A Black Lady Sketch Show Earns First Emmy for Picture Editing in a Variety Program

Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The editing team of the comedy series “A Black Lady Sketch Show” took home the award for Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Programming at the Emmy’s this last year, making them the first editing team of color to win and be nominated in that category. The award came specifically for Season 2, Episode 3 entitled “Sister, May I Call You Oshun?” starring Gabrielle Union and Jesse Williams. Editors Daysha Broadway, Stephanie Filo and Jessica Hernandez were present to accept their physical awards.

Source: Because of Them We Can

Sian Proctor standing in her uniform in front of a launch platform

Sian Proctor Becomes the First Black Woman Spacecraft Pilot

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

When SpaceX launched its historic Inspiration4 mission, it marked the first time that an all-civilian crew traveled into orbit. But as historic as this feat is, it wasn’t the only “first” that was accomplished that day. Sian Proctor, a geoscientist chosen to be a part of the missions’ crew, was assigned to be the pilot for the flight, making her the first black woman spacecraft pilot in history. Proctor’s position also makes her the oldest black woman to go to space at the age of 51 and the sixth black woman astronaut in history regardless of space travel status.

Source: Space.com, Wikipedia, Spaceflight Now

Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 27: Dr. Patricia Bath of Laserphaco attends the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the NYU Paulson Auditorium on April 27, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

The First Black Women Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame

Marian Photo: Wikipedia

Bath Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Dr. Patricia Era Bath (1942-2019), the groundbreaking ophthalmologist who invented one of the most important surgical tools in history, and Marian Croak, one of the astounding pioneers for Voice over IP adaption, will be inducted into the National Investors Hall of Fame in May of next year, making them the first Black female inventors inducted by NIHF in its nearly 50-year history. When asked what it meant to be a part of the 2022 class of inductees and as one of the first black women to do so, Croak stated, “I find that it inspires people when they see someone who looks like themselves on some dimension, and I’m proud to offer that type of representation. People also see that I’m just a normal person like themselves, and I think that also inspires them to accomplish their goals. I want people to understand that it may be difficult but that they can overcome obstacles and that it will be so worth it.”

Source: We R Stem, Google News, Wikipedia

NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500
TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – OCTOBER 04: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 McDonald’s Toyota, celebrates in the Ruoff Mortgage victory lane after winning the rain-shortened NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 04, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Bubba Wallace Breaks Record in NASCAR Cup

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Racecar driver, Bubba Wallace, broke records this last year when he won the YellaWood 500 NASCAR race, making him the first black driver to win a NASCAR cup since Wendell Scott’s victory in 1963. Wallace took the victory in early October, driving the number 23 Toyota Camry, owned by Michael Jordan’s racing team. The win not only marked Wallace’s first win since becoming a full-time racer in 2018, but named Jordan as the first black owner to win a full-time cup since 1973. When asked what it was like for Wallace to be the first black driver to win a cup since Wendell Scott, Wallace told NBC: “When you say it like that, it obviously brings a lot of joy, a lot of emotion to my family, fans and friends…just proud to be a winner in a Cup Series.”

Source: Deadline and NBC

Jessica Watkins standing in front of a world map with her uniform on

Jessica Watkins to Be the First Black Woman to Live and Work on the Space Station

Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA has assigned astronaut Jessica Watkins to serve as a mission specialist on the agency’s upcoming SpaceX Crew-4 mission, the fourth crew rotation flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. This makes Watkins the first black woman in history to live and work on the space station. The mission will begin in April 2022 and will be Watkins’ first trip to space after her astronaut selection in 2017.

Credit: NASA

Black women are finally shattering the glass ceiling in dance

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Dionne Figgins, artistic director of Ballet Tech, is one of several Black women named recently to leadership posts in dance. (Jeenah Moon for The Washington Post)

By Sarah L. Kaufman, Washington Post

Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell knows how it feels to be the only Black dancer in the dressing room.

“Everyone was friendly, but it was a lonely feeling that nobody looked like me,” says the former star of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, recalling her first dance job 30 years ago, with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

“So when it came to styling my hair, I couldn’t rely on anyone to help advise me. There were so many little things like that.”

Throughout the concert-dance world, dancers of color have often shared that sense of isolation and difference. But in recent months, some significant appointments offer hope of change. In March, Fisher-Harrell began leading the company where she once felt so alone. As the new artistic director of Hubbard Street, a widely respected contemporary troupe founded by Broadway dancer Lou Conte, she is one of very few Black women heading traditionally White-led dance organizations.

Fisher-Harrell, who most recently had been teaching at Towson University and the Baltimore School for the Arts, made changes quickly at Hubbard Street. She hired four dancers of color, bringing the total at the 14-member company to six dancers.

Three more Black women have recently assumed dance leadership roles, in front-office moves that are rare in the dance world. Each has led a distinguished performance career in premiere companies on international stages followed by years as dance educators.

Endalyn Taylor is the new dean of the dance school at the prestigious University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. A former leading ballerina of Dance Theatre of Harlem, an original cast member of “The Lion King” and “Aida” on Broadway, and a dance professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Taylor succeeds former American Ballet Theatre principal Susan Jaffe.

Click here to read the full article on the Washington Post.

Prime Universal Network, a husband and wife-owned, positive content television network signs with Hisense, the third largest TV manufacturer in the world

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PRIME Universal logo

Prime Universal Network, a division of Prime Local TV Network, Inc., has signed a distribution agreement with international manufacturer, Hisense, and their content platform VIDAA. They will place Prime Universal Network’s positive content TV App onto 140 million currently purchased televisions and an additional 30+ million new televisions annually.

Prime Universal Network’s content platform called – The Positive People Platform, came into existence in 2018 after Rodney and Holly Harris began their search for positive and uplifting human interest stories being showcased on a consistent basis.

The Positive People Platform offers only positive content produced by the couple and other content producers, with a variety of short stories, sports, documentaries, and events. Their platform showcases the positive and unique experiences of ordinary people.

Mission – To change the negative narrative and misunderstanding that positive content means boring. Positive can be and is exciting, interesting, and informative. Our world already has enough negative content.

History – How did they get started in media? Born in the Akron/Canton region of Ohio, they began covering their hometown hero, LeBron James, when he played with both Cleveland/Miami NBA teams. They also covered most of his NBA Finals games.

13 things you didn’t know about Shonda Rhimes

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Shonda Rhimes

For as long as Twitter’s been around, every Thursday night, the timeline is flooded with tweets cursing Shonda Rhimes’ name, usually, for something devastating that’s happened on “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Even though she hasn’t been the showrunner of “Grey’s” for a few years, she will forever be linked to the hugely successful, 17-season-long (and counting!) medical drama. But Rhimes has done plenty of other things in her career, including writing two films and a memoir.

Rhimes, who now lives in Los Angeles, is so dedicated to her home city that she gets Chicago deep-dish pizza flown in every Christmas Eve, she told Food & Wine in 2017. Her favorite comes from Illinois restaurant chain Aurelio’s, she told the publication.

She’s the youngest of six kids — two older brothers and three older sisters. While growing up in University Park, she shared a room with one of her sisters, Sandie, she wrote in her book, “Year of Yes.” Both of her parents were educators.

Rhimes earned her BA from Dartmouth College.

Much like her own creation Meredith Grey, Rhimes graduated from Dartmouth College. She even cameoed as herself in fellow Dartmouth grad Mindy Kaling’s show “The Mindy Project,” when she attended a Dartmouth alumni beer pong game. After Dartmouth, she earned her MFA from the USC School of Cinema-Television in 1994.

Read ten more interesting facts about Shonda Rhimes at Insider.

Soul Life Travel, the First Black and Women-Owned Travel Agency in Costa Rica

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Soul Life Travel, the First Black and Women-Owned Travel Agency in Costa Rica

By Yamily Habib, Be Latina

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a myriad of things in the way we live. Not only did we learn to value our personal spaces and our community solidarity, but we put into perspective the way we travel and the value we place on freedom of movement.

Combined, these learnings have made us more sensitive to the fair representation and authenticity of our experiences.

For Sadie Jordan and Emily Orgias, these life lessons came to fruition in Soul Life Travel, the first Black and women-owned travel agency in Costa Rica — Jordan’s mother’s native home (Jordan was born in the States).

After years of giving travel tips to their family and friends in the region, always trying to bring value to the authenticity of the Caribbean, Jordan founded Soul Life Travel; Orgias joined her afterward as a travel specialist.

This agency combines their decade-long experience in the travel industry and their more than fifteen years of personal globetrotting.

Soul Life travel offers unique and authentic trips that compete with irresponsible tourism, which poses a growing threat to local culture, especially in Costa Rica.

“We believe that sustainable travel is both possible and essential, which is why we craft exciting tours that highlight, not harm, the essence of places you visit,” the founders explain on their website “Our personal connection to the region not only enhances our expertise and commitment to the local community but also motivates us to carefully design tours that are tailored to every desire in your dream trip.”

As Jordan told Travel Noire, there are many things people don’t know about Afro-Caribbean Costa Rican culture. With Soul Life Travel, the founders hope people will learn by researching and planning trips for them. Their goal is to bring people together around culture, wellness, and adventure in the often forgotten Caribbean coast.

“I created Soul Life Travel to show Black and brown people our cultures. A lot of things connect us, whether it be our cuisine or how our mama’s throw down in the kitchen, and so many experiences,” Jordan said.

Soul Life Travel offers many tours, including “A Taste of Costa Rica,” “A Week In Costa Rica,” and “Afro-Caribbean Costa Rica.”

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

11 Gorgeous Afro-Latinx-Owned Online Shops To Support During National Black Business Month

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Afro-Latinx Owned products

By Andrea Reindl, Mitu

August is National Black Business Month and this year, there’s no better time to support Black businesses. After the racial reckoning of 2020, many of us are still educating ourselves on structural racism and the impact it’s had on Black business owners and generational wealth. And part of that education includes shopping at Black-owned businesses.

Luckily, there are Black entrepreneurs out there who are following their dreams and making money moves. Here is a list of Afro-Latinx-owned businesses you can shop at online.

Azteca Negra

Azteca Negra was founded by Jefa Marisol Catchings, who identifies as Chicana and Black. Her online store started off selling colorful hand-crafted headwraps, but since the pandemic, she has also expanded into selling face masks as well. Buy the Mami & Me Princesa Headwrap Set (pictured) for $38.00.

La Boticá Studios

Founded by Afro-Dominicana Dawn Marie West, La Boticá Studios is what she describes as a “luxury fragrance brand” that is “rooted in culture.” With scents like “Flor de Selva” and “República,” her candles are sure to transport you to the Caribbean. Candles start at $78.00.

Coffee Del Mundo

Belizean coffee connoisseur Jonathan Kinnard founded Coffee Del Mundo’s to “help people rediscover coffee the way it was meant to be enjoyed.” So unnatural additives are a no-no. You can get pods or whole beans via delivery. Buy a bag of El Salvador Whole Bean (pictured) for $13.50.

The Cozy Cup Tea

The Cozy Cup Tea was founded by a New York Dominicana who loves tea. While she throws tea party events for the tea-lovers out there, she also sells Caribbean-inspired tea on her website. Buy all teas starting at $10.00.

Breukelen Rub Spice Co.

Breukelen Rub Spice Co. is a Flatbush-located spice brand that produces hyperlocal artisanal spice blends and dry-rubs. Founded by Afro-Puerto Rican chef, Chef JD, Breukelen Rub Spice Co.’s most popular spice blend is the all-purpose, nostalgic spice blend Abuela’s Adobo. Buy for $15.00.

Reina Skincare

Inspired by her own skin troubles, Panamanian Jefa Adriana Isabel Robinson Rivera created a skincare brand fit for a queen. She sells everything from cleansers to toners to serums to oil. Browse their catalog.

Coco and Breezy Eyewear

Famous Afro-Puerto Rican twin DJs Corianna and Brianna Dotson created this luxury eyewear line as a creative experiment. Their brand has since achieved wild success. These are luxury eyewear, so the price point starts at $285.00.

Peralta Project

First-generation Dominican, M. Tony Peralta founded the Peralta Project. According to his website, his designs explore blackness in Dominican identity and pay homage to old-school hip-hop. This shirt is available for $35.00.

Valerie Madison Fine Jewelry

Valerie Madison is a fine jewelry business that describes itself as sells Black-Latina owned. The luxury retailer sells engagement rings, wedding bands, and other fine jewelry. These indulgences are a once-in-a-lifetime type of splurge, so prices vary.

Pisqueya Hot Sauce

Pisqueya hot sauce was created by Maritza Abreu from a recipe handed down “through a family of Dominican cooks.” With three delicious flavors (Smoky Hot, Medium Buzz, and Spicy Sweet), you’ll find a sauce for every occasion. Sauces sell for $6.99 each.

Click here to read the full article on Mitu.

All-Black women crew operates American Airlines flight from Dallas in honor of trailblazer Bessie Coleman

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In honor of the 100th anniversary of Bessie Coleman becoming the first Black woman to earn a pilot's license, American Airlines operated a flight from Dallas to Phoenix with an all-Black female crew.

By Emma Tucker, CNN

An all-Black female crew operated an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Phoenix in honor of Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license in 1921.

The airline hosted the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars tour this week to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Coleman performing the first public flight by an African American woman in 1922. “She bravely broke down barriers within the world of aviation and paved the path for many to follow,” American Airlines said in a statement. Coleman’s great-niece, Gigi Coleman, was hosted on the flight operated by the all-Black female crew of pilots, flight attendants, customer service coordinators, cargo team members and the aviation maintenance technician, the airline said. “I’m grateful for American Airlines to give us this opportunity to highlight my great aunt’s accomplishments in the field of aviation,” Gigi said in a video posted by American Airlines titled “Empowering Women in the Skies.”

Very few American women of any race had pilot’s licenses by 1918, but those who did were often White and rich. Undeterred, Coleman learned French and moved to Paris and was accepted by the Caudron Brothers School of Aviation. In 1921, Coleman became the first female pilot of African American and Native American descent.

Coleman died at 34 in 1926 during a practice run with another pilot. While she never fulfilled her dream to open a flight school for future Black pilots, Coleman’s imprint on aviation history lives on, CNN previously reported.

Black women have been “notably underrepresented in the aviation industry, especially as pilots, representing less than 1% in the commercial airline industry,” American Airlines said.

“Today, I’m beyond thrilled to be a part of the crew where we are inspiring young girls, young girls of color, to see the various roles that these women play in every aspect to make this flight possible,” Captain Beth Powell, the flight’s pilot, said in the video.

American Airlines said it is committed to diversifying the flight deck, which includes “expanding awareness of and increasing accessibility to the pilot career within diverse communities” through its cadet academy.

The day after the historic flight, representatives from the Bessie Coleman Foundation and American Airlines pilots and cadets met with students at the Academies at South Mountain in Phoenix, where the flight landed, to expose young people to careers in the aviation industry.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

These Afro-Latina Creatives Carved Out Their Own Career — & Found Success

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These Afro-Latina Creatives Carved Out Their Own Career — & Found Success

By Hilary Shepherd, Refinery 29

Honoring long-held traditions while looking toward the future might be a popular practice around the holiday season, but for some, it’s a year-round business. Just ask 28-year-old digital creator Julianny Casado and 26-year-old makeup artist Sabré O’Neil. As Afro-Latinas (Casado is a first-generation American of Dominican origin; O’Neil is a second-generation American of Puerto Rican descent), the two creatives feel strongly about regularly celebrating their roots not only through their work, but through their own appearances and unique senses of style, as well.

Both Casado and O’Neil say that the journey in accepting their identities wasn’t always an easy one. “Growing up as an Afro-Latina, it was really hard to find my crowd,” O’Neil says. “I didn’t know if I was going to hang with the Hispanic people or the other crowds, so I was always by myself.” By continuing to push forward and make space for themselves in two fields that have historically lacked diversity, they’re helping to make way for opportunities for the next generation of creatives within their respective communities. In partnership with , the sneaker brand that’s been embracing both tradition and innovation through fun twists on the timeless Chuck style for more than 100 years, we asked Casado and O’Neil to share how they discovered their passions, the ways in which their identities influence their work, and how they redefine classic Converse silhouettes in 2021. Read their stories, below.

Julianny Casado, Digital Creator

I discovered my passion… “When I was 16 years old. I’ve always been obsessed with cameras, but my cousin had this really cool DSLR camera, and it really changed the way I felt about photos and how you could tell stories. I wanted to work for National Geographic and do crazy documentative stories. It took off from there. After that, I was always obsessed with photo formats and anything visual. Everything else — like curation and art direction — just grew. I learned from my mistakes and experience.”

My own unique aesthetic is… “Very candid and life-like. I like things to be as organic as possible. Very vibrant, too. I’m obsessed with color — it brings a certain character to the story that I’m telling. I work with the plus-size community and it’s been an experience that I’m so honored to be a part of. There are so many people who aren’t being celebrated, but they should be because they’re athletes and champions in their own right. They go out every day and smash whatever it is that they do. I love giving voices to people who feel like they don’t have one.”

How my identity as an Afro-Latina shapes my work: “I’m from New York City, but my family is from the Dominican Republic. I also have a huge lineage of Afro-descendants, and I love it. It influences everything that I do. I don’t take anything for granted because I know where I come from. I know what my ancestors have been through, and I know I have better opportunities just for being here today. I’ve watched my family turn bread into gold. I’ve seen them work hard at everything that they do, and it’s taught me that it’s the little details that people might not speak about or see right away. That’s definitely something I like to highlight and photograph — the things that aren’t completely obvious or aren’t typically socially accepted as beautiful. I think those are the best parts of life.”

I struggled with my identity… “As I grew up. I’m a first-generation American, so I didn’t have the Dominican roots that my older siblings had. I felt like there was a huge dissociation, but now as an adult, I’m really enjoying learning what those who came before me have done and how important it is to keep our culture and our traditions going. They are the things that make us, and if you don’t practice them, you lose them and you become like everyone else.”

To be Afro-Latina in America today is about… “Digging deeper into your identity. It’s a blessing. We have to stand together because there are so many people who want to deny where we come from. They want us to fit into what the rest of the world’s narrative is. Honestly, I’m so proud to be Afro-Latina and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Not my hair, not my skin, not my experiences.”

My first memory of Converse sneakers… “Was when I was 12. My first pair was white and they were low-tops. I love Converse — they’re my favorite sneakers. They were the coolest shoes growing up. They were so simple, comfortable, and affordable.”

I would redefine classic Converse silhouettes… “By adding a color-blocking pattern to a pair. Color is my safe zone and it makes me feel closest to my identity. I would choose pastel colors because they remind me of my island.”

Click here to read the full article on Refinery 29.

Former WNBA star Niesha Butler opens first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp in New York City

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Former WNBA star Niesha Butler opens first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp in New York City

By ABC News Radio

Former WNBA player Niesha Butler has opened the first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp, S.T.E.A.M. Champs, in New York City to reduce accessibility barriers to tech educational resources for Brooklyn youth.

“If a kid could actually say that they can be LeBron James, and roll it off their tongue as easy as that, then they can literally say ‘yeah, I can also put a man on the moon,’ or ‘I can also create the next app,'” Butler told ABC News.

Butler, a New York City native, says “there’s talent in Brooklyn.” She established S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Champs in the middle of Brooklyn to encourage inner-city youth to channel their ambition into educational opportunities. Butler also hires interns, may of whom have tried coding for the first time with the program, she says.

“People sell basketball dreams every other second in our community. I thought it was really important to, let’s sell these tech dreams,” Butler said.

Prior to opening her doors in Brooklyn, Butler partnered with organizations like Girl Scouts, BronxWorks and a local AAU basketball team to host STEM-focused workshops reaching over 300 New York City students. Monday was the first day of camp in the newly opened facility.

“There’s not a lot of people of color in tech,” Butler said. “These jobs are open for everybody and they’re empty…so obviously we need to do a better job at educating our kids and in recruiting them.”

Other tech education camps and workshops across the nation have worked to close the gap and make tech careers interesting and accessible to students of underserved communities.

Black Girls CODE is one of those resources providing workshops and public speaking opportunities for Black girls. Program alumni Kimora Oliver and Azure Butler say that the program’s first chapter in California’s Bay Area created an environment that allowed local Black female students to envision themselves in the tech industry.

“Unfortunately, STEM is a white and male dominated field,” Oliver told ABC News. “I feel like [Black Girls CODE] is giving a diverse group of Black girls the exposure that they need to decide for themselves whether they want to continue with STEM in the future.”

For almost 40 years, another program called Academically Interest Minds (AIM) at Kettering University has tailored its pre-college curriculum to expose youth of color to STEM coursework and campus life.

“49% of African American students who attend Kettering University now, are AIM graduates,” Ricky D. Brown, the university’s director of multicultural student initiatives and the AIM program, told ABC News.

For many, STEM educational resources introduce an element of choice in considering STEM and exploring pathways of academic interests.

A study released in July by the National Bureau of Economic Research says that early intervention programs like S.T.E.A.M Champs, AIM and Black Girls CODE are effective in helping students achieve academic success in higher education and STEM majors.

“Some of these kids don’t have a computer at home to study,” Butler said. “When I go to some of these centers, they don’t have good Wi-Fi…they have outdated computers.”

According to the study, underrepresentation in STEM is due to a lack of preparation and access to educational resources.

“Given that STEM preparation and college access are shaped prior to college entrance, STEM focused enrichment programs for high school students are promising vehicles to reduce disparities in STEM degree attainment,” the study’s authors wrote.

Click here to read the full article on ABC News Radio.

Meet Afro-Latina Scientist Dr. Jessica Esquivel

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Dr. Jessica Esquivel

By Erica Nahmad, Be Latina

It’s undeniable that representation matters and the idea of what a scientist could or should look like is changing, largely thanks to pioneers like Afro-Latina scientist Dr. Jessica Esquivel, who is breaking barriers for women in STEM one step at a time.

Dr. Esquivel isn’t just extraordinary because of what she is capable of as an Afro-Latina astrophysicist — she’s also extraordinary in her vulnerability and relatability. She’s on a mission to break barriers in science and to show the humanity behind scientists.

Dr. Esquivel makes science accessible to everyone, no matter what you look like or where you come from. As one of the only Afro-Latina scientists in her field, and one of the only women who looked like her to pursue a Ph.D. in physics, Dr. Esquivel knows a thing or two about the importance of representation, especially in STEM fields and science labs.

Women make up only 28% of the science, technology, engineering, and math workforce in the U.S. Those disparities are even more severe when you start to look at minority populations.

“When you start looking at the intersections of race and gender and then even sexuality, those numbers drop significantly,” Esquivel told CBS Chicago. “There are only about 100 to 150 black women with their Ph.D. in physics in the country!”

Fighting against the isolation of uniqueness
Dr. Jessica Esquivel recalls being a nontraditional student and being “the only” when she entered graduate school for physics — the only woman in her class, the only Black, the only Mexican, the only lesbian — and all of that made her feel very isolated.

“On top of such rigorous material, the isolation and otherness that happens due to being the only or one of few is an added burden marginalized people, especially those with multiple marginalized identities, have to deal with,” Dr. Esquivel told BeLatina in an email interview. On top of feeling like an outsider, isolation was also consuming. “Being away from family at a predominately white institution, where the number of microaggressions was constant, really affected my mental health and, in turn, my coursework and research, so it was important to surround myself with mentors who supported me and believed in my ability to be a scientist.”

While she anticipated that the physics curriculum would be incredibly challenging, she was definitely not prepared for how hard the rest of the experience would be and how it would impact her as a student and a scientist.

The challenges she faced professionally and personally made her realize early on just how crucial representation is in academia and all fields, but especially in STEM. “It was really impactful for me to learn that there were other Black women who had made it out of the grad school metaphorical trenches. It’s absolutely important to create inclusive spaces where marginalized people, including Black, Latina, and genderqueer people, can thrive,” she said.

“The secrets of our universe don’t discriminate, these secrets can and should be unraveled by all those who wish to embark on that journey, and my aim is to clear as many barriers and leave these physics spaces better than I entered them.”

When inclusion and equal opportunities are the ultimate goal
Dr. Jessica Esquivel isn’t just dedicating her time and energy to studying complex scientific concepts — think quantum entanglement, space-time fabric, the building blocks of the universe… some seriously abstract physics concepts straight out of a sci-fi movie, as she explains. On top of her research, she put in so much extra work to show people, especially younger generations of women of color, that the physics and STEM world is not some old white man’s club where this prestigious knowledge is only available to them. Dr. Esquivel is an expert in her field; she knows things that no one else currently knows and has the ability and the power to transfer that knowledge to others and pass it down to others. There is a place for everyone, including people who look like her, in the STEM world, and she’s on a mission to inspire others while working to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM space.

“Many of us who are underrepresented in STEM have taken on the responsibility of spearheading institutional change toward more just, equitable, and inclusive working environments as a form of survival,” she explains. “I’m putting in more work on top of the research I do because I recognize that I do better research if I feel supported and if I feel like I can bring my whole self to my job. My hope is that one day Black and brown women and gender-queer folks interested in science can pursue just that and not have to fight for their right to be a scientist or defend that they are worthy of doing science.”

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

Beverly Malbranche of Caribbrew Honors Her Homeland of Haiti Through Her Coffee Brand

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Beverly Malbranche wearing a yellow shirt and smiling at the camera

By Nashia Baker, Martha Stewart

Both personally and professionally, Beverly Malbranche has always wanted to make an impact in the world and honor her homeland along the way. To meld the two, she decided to open Caribbrew, her Black-owned and woman-founded Haitian coffee brand. “Once I realized that we used to be a major coffee producer, I felt challenged to revive this lost history and create opportunities through it,” she recalls, noting that she launched the business, based in Passaic, New Jersey, in November 2018.

“I decided to create my own business in order to have more impact and to use my creativity and determination to offer a positive image of Haiti,” she says. “I also wanted to share our gastronomy with the world in some form or shape.” Ahead, Malbranche shares how she took her desire for personal fulfillment and meaningful opportunity and channeled them into her work—and ultimately developed a thriving coffee business that is also a tribute to Haiti.

Increasing Brand Awareness

Malbranche opened her business with $1,000 and built it from the ground up. She turned to Facebook and Instagram to get her company up and running. Through these platforms, she discovered other small businesses and began to learn from them—and started networking offline to build her business, as well. She attended local pop-up shops to continue getting Caribbrew’s name out there, and gained business champions and her first customers as a result.

Producing the Coffee

Caribbrew offers an array of products, but is best known for shade-grown, chemical-free, premium coffee. Malbranche prioritized process when she first started production: Haitian farmers handpick the Arabica beans, which are then roasted in small batches. For those who can’t go without their morning cup of joe, you can shop options like the Caribbrew Dark Roast Premium Haitian Coffee ($15.50, caribbrew.com); it is characterized by its dark, aromatic, heavy-bodied flavor profile. Or, try Caribbrew Medium Roast Kcups ($22, caribbrew.com), made specifically with beans from Thiotte, a mountainous town in the south of Haiti (this roast has hints of chocolate).

“Haitian beans tend to be nutty and mellow in acidity,” Malbranche explains. “[The medium and dark roasts] are both smooth, and while you can taste the nuttiness more in our medium roast, the dark roast has notes of dark caramel and a bit of chocolate.”

Her company’s offerings go beyond coffee, too. Skin care enthusiasts can snag the Coconut Latte Body Butter ($25, caribbrew.com), a Haitian coffee-infused, full body treatment that can reduce stretch marks and cellulite; the Mango Mandarin Haitian Coffee Scrub ($15, caribbrew.com) which exfoliates and decreases facial inflammation, thanks to green coffee properties; and other beauty products, teas, and chocolates from the line.

Brewing with Inspiration

Malbranche’s mission is simple: “I want to create more transparency on the coffee supply chain and create a space for coffee originating from the Caribbean—starting with Haiti,” she says. “I also want to support the ongoing efforts to see more Black- and women-owned businesses in the industry.” As for her customers? She wants them to enjoy exploring her brand and “savor each cup—and also connect with the folks who grow the beans.”

While the entrepreneur has her sights on new goals (the team just launched Caribbrew nationwide via Sprouts Farmers Market and aims to get the brand in more retail locations soon), she has one crucial piece of advice for fellow business owners who are striving for something more. “Give yourself grace and take it one step a time,” she explains. “It’s good to create a roadmap for the vision that you have. That will help you eliminate some activities that do not align with your goals, so you can focus on what matters.”

Click here to read the full article on Martha Stewart.

Zendaya Makes Emmy History Once Again as Youngest Producing Nominee for ‘Euphoria’

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Zendaya in a nude dress on the red carpet

By , Rolling Stone

Zendaya made history in 2020 when she became the youngest woman — and only the second Black woman (after Viola Davis) — to win in the lead drama actress category at the age of 24. Now, with the 2022 Emmy nods out, Zendaya, has made history yet again as the youngest producer to be nominated for an award after Euphoria’s Outstanding Drama Series nod. Zendaya serves as both a star and executive producer on the series.

The general drama series nod comes as she received three other nominations for her role as Rue Bennett in the HBO drama. She was, once again, nominated for Lead Actress in a Drama Series and also received two nods for Outstanding Original Music for both “Elliot’s Song” with Dominic Fike, and”I’m Tired” with Labrinth.

In the Lead Actress category, she faces off against Killing Eve‘s Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh, Ozark‘s Laura Linney, Yellowjackets’ Melanie Lynskey, and Morning Show‘s Reese Witherspoon.

Meanwhile, Euphoria is nominated for the Outstanding Drama Series category against Better Call Saul, Ozark, Severance, Squid Game, Stranger Things, Succession, and Yellowjackets. (Squid Game is the first non-English-language series to be nominated for the prize.)

The list of “firsts” doesn’t end there for the Oakland-born star. With her nominations, she’s also the first Black woman (and only second Black person) to receive both songwriting and acting nods in the same year.

More history could be made next year by Zendaya as she revealed in a recent interview with Vogue Italia that not only does she want to direct, but she “probably” will direct a future episode of Euphoria. “I was supposed to direct Episode 6 [of Season 2], but then I had to act in it,” she said in the interview. “I didn’t have enough time, so, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to this time around. I wanted to have enough time to do it the right way, so next season probably.”

Click here to read the full article on the Rolling Stone.

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